News / Highlights / Colloquium
EPJ Plus article on microﬁber pollution in the air selected for Springer Nature Grand Challenges Programme
- Published on 28 January 2019
A new study reports on microplastic fibres in the air, which can potentially enter the human body through breathing.
Microplastics (MPs) are one of the major hot topics in environmental science. Scientists have started to investigate the impact of such pollutants in different habitats, such as oceans, rivers, soils and air. Several studies have shown that MP fibers are very common in the atmosphere. They are invisible to human eye as they are smaller than 5 mm. These fibers, which derive from different sources, float freely in the air pushed by winds. A recent study, published on EPJ Plus, evaluated microfiber pollution in the air of an intercity terminal and a university campus in the Sakarya Province, Turkey.
EPJ Plus Highlight - 3D virtual slicing of an antique violin reveals ancient varnishing methods
- Published on 08 January 2019
Physicists and chemists use 3D scanning to unlock the forgotten secrets of the multi-layered coating methods that give violins their exceptional tone and look
Italian violin-making masters of the distant past developed varnishing techniques that lent their instruments both an excellent musical tone and impressive appearance. Few records from this era have survived, as techniques were most often passed down orally to apprentices; only scarce information is available on the original methods used for finishing the instruments. In a new study published in EPJ Plus, Giacomo Fiocco, affiliated with both Pavia and Torino Universities in Italy, and his colleagues use the synchrotron facility in Trieste to develop a non-invasive 3D-scanning approach that yields insights into the main morphological features of the overlapping finishing layers used on violins. In turn, the morphological images can be used to determine the chemical nature of the coating. This newly developed method could help scientists rediscover the procedures and materials used, and reproduce the multi-layered coating methods of the ancient masters.
EPJ Plus Focus Point on New Technologies Related to Intentional and Accidental Release of CBRNe Agents
- Published on 19 December 2018
Since the events of September 11th 2001 and the anthrax attacks in America of the following month the general consensus is that there is a realistic possibility of some form of unconventional terrorist attack in the western world and that this could involve CBRN material [i.e., Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear and explosive events]. It is therefore vital that local authorities and agencies operating in the National and International frameworks are prepared to respond, as effectively and efficiently as possible, to any crisis scenarios resulting from such non-conventional events.
This focus point collects some innovative tech solutions presented during the first international conference on CBRNe - SICC 2017, a conference devoted to promoting the dissemination of the different methodologies, techniques, theories, strategies, technologies and best practices on the prevention and mitigation of CBRNE risks. The conference intended to propose new solutions to reduce the risk factors related to CBRNe events and to promote the fruitful inter-professional collaborations between university and military/public experts, specialized operators, decision makers and the industry.
EPJ Plus Highlight - On the trail of the Higgs Boson
- Published on 05 December 2018
The elusive particle won't share all the secrets of its creation mechanism at once
For the physics community, the discovery of new particles like the Higgs Boson has paved the way for a host of exciting potential experiments. Yet, when it comes to such an elusive particle as the Higgs Boson, it's not easy to unlock the secrets of the mechanism that led to its creation. The experiments designed to detect the Higgs Boson involve colliding particles with sufficiently high energy head-on after accelerating them in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In a quest to understand the production mechanisms for the Higgs Boson, Silvia Biondi from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Bologna, Italy investigated the traces of a rare process, called ttH, in which the Higgs Boson is produced in association with a pair of elementary particles referred to as top quarks. Her findings can be found in a recent study published in EPJ Plus. Future LHC experiments are expected to yield even more precise measurements of the Higgs Boson's ability to couple with particles that physicists are already familiar with.
EPJ Plus Focus Point on Modern Astronomy: Selected Issues in Nuclear and High Energy Astrophysics
- Published on 27 November 2018
Modern Astronomy is a multidisciplinary science that evolved widely with respect to old traditional and romantic discipline made at a telescope, observing stars and taking notes of their movements in the sky. Nowadays, high-resolution stellar spectra from gigantic reflectors like VLT, images of planets and distant galaxies made at infrared wavelengths where cool matter or redshifted objects are best seen, high-definition maps of galaxies and the cosmos provided by space-borne telescopes are invaluable sources of data. However, they give us only a partial vision of the universe, which, to be studied and understood, needs to be scrutinized not only in the electromagnetic spectrum but also through probes of different nature, such as high energy particles (cosmic rays) accelerated by Galactic mechanisms, neutrinos from nuclear processes and gravitational waves from space-time perturbations. In this much broader picture, "classical" astronomers, stellar physicists, experts of nucleosynthesis, nuclear and particle physicists and geochemists work together to study the universe and understand its formation and evolution. Since many experts in different fields are needed to undertake this arduous task, it is crucial that the training of young researchers be focused both on providing them with a general physical background, and on specializing them in some specific field among those mentioned.
This focus point aims to give the students and general readers an overview on the state of the art of modern research in stellar modelling and nucleosynthesis, in Gamma- and X-ray astronomy, in astro-particle physics, and in experimental low-energy nuclear astrophysics.
EPJ Plus article on Breast cancer: latest improvements in mammography selected for Springer Nature Grand Challenges Programme
- Published on 20 November 2018
A novel technique provides high performance in the analysis of mammographic images
Breast cancer is a disease predominantly affecting females and in the last decades the incidence rate rose. Nowadays, main risk factors, apart from genetic predisposition, include obesity, physical inactivity, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, and alcohol consumption. During the 1980s and 1990s, mammography screening has taken hold detecting many new cases. This technique takes advantage of low energy X-rays to examine breast tissues and early detect masses or microcalcifications, which are cancer’s ‘alarm bells’. Major issues in mammography concern the development of methods allowing a fast and clear interpretation of the collected screening images.
A group of scientists (B. Mughal et al.) reports on the European Physical Journal Plus (EPJ Plus) a new technique to improve the screening images reconstruction in order to achieve high accuracy.
EPJ Plus article on first steps towards microplastics regulation in Europe selected for Springer Nature Grand Challenges Programme
- Published on 07 November 2018
In modern times, assessing the impact of climate change on the vulnerability of radiological practices is necessary to implement risk management policies and secure facilities.Scientific, political and socio-economic aspects of the dossier on plastic pollution solicited by the European Commission.
In November 2017, as part of the EU Plastics Strategy, the European Commission (EC) requested that the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) develop a dossier on microplastics' restriction under REACH. REACH is a EU chemical regulation adopted in 2006, and its aims are the protection of human health and the environment.
The requested restriction process concerns not only environmental and health risk assessments but is closely related to socio-economic impacts within the union. Therefore, several EU committees, such as the Risk Assessment Committee (RA) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEA) are involved in the examination of the preparatory study submitted by ECHA.
The whole restriction process is clearly described by E. Kentin in European Physical Journal Plus (EPJ Plus).
EPJ Plus article on climate change and safety implications selected for Springer Nature Grand Challenges Programme
- Published on 16 October 2018
In modern times, assessing the impact of climate change on the vulnerability of radiological practices is necessary to implement risk management policies and secure facilities.
Global warming goes hand in hand with increasing instances of climate-related natural disasters such as storms, droughts, floods, and rainfalls. The effects of climate change, beyond having a tremendous impact on ecosystems, are also remarkable risk factors for anthropogenic systems (some examples include infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism).
In Europe, flooding events have increased in the last few years, particularly in the Mediterranean region, which has a high climatic risk because of its complex orography and the presence of human activities.
In the European Physical Journal Plus, G. M. Contessa et al. analyze the influence of climate change on human activities involving ionizing radiation in Italy.
EPJ Plus Highlight - Statistical method recreates the history of a long-abandoned village
- Published on 05 October 2018
History revealed by integrating multiple layers of clues from medieval village remnants
Archaeologists now have new tools for studying the development of medieval villages and the transformation of the historical landscapes surrounding them. In a study recently published in EPJ Plus, scientists have attempted to reconstruct the history of Zornoztegi, an abandoned medieval village located in the Basque Country, Spain. To do so they rely on the various analysis methods available to archaeologists, including radiocarbon dating, archaeological and historical records, archaeobotanical and optical microscope analyses of samples found on the site, together with a statistical analysis model. Paola Ricci from the University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” in Italy and colleagues used this approach to establish the history of the village in the time leading up to the Middle Ages.
EPJ Plus article on Microplastics highlighted for Springer Nature Grand Challenges Programme
- Published on 17 September 2018
Will the oceans be clean again? - How to search for and identify microplastics in the marine environment using digital holography.
In recent years the pollution of soil and oceans has drastically increased, affecting the food chain and consequently causing damage to plant life, contaminating fauna and damaging human health.
Among the major contaminants, microplastics play a relevant role and even though several techniques have been proposed to analyse the presence of such material in water, the overall data are largely incomplete. A group of Italian researchers (F. Merola et al.) have proposed using a non-invasive technique based on digital holography to search for and reconstruct the shape of different types of microplastics in water.
They report in the European Physical Journal Plus (EPJ Plus) how it is possible to identify different fragments of the most used types of plastic (such as PET, PVC, PP, PE and PS), which heavily contaminate the seas, and how this high-resolution technique is able to distinguish plastics from organisms such as diatoms, a major group of microalgae living in the marine environment.